Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Paul-Émile Botta (6 December 1802 – 29 March 1870)

Paul-Émile Botta was born in Turin in the year of 1802. He is the son of Carlo Botta, an eminent historian and educator, and Antoinette de Vierville of Chambery. He studied under Cruveilhier, Orfila, Andral, and Dupuytren at the Faculty of Medicine at Paris, taking his doctorate in 1830 with a thesis, "On the Use of Smoking Opium."

He accompanied A. D Cilly as a surgeon in his voyage around the world in 1826-29. Botta traveled to the Arabian Peninsula with directives from the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (formerly the Jardin du Roi) in Paris to document, describe, and collect samples of flora.

Yet Botta’s success was predicated not on the instructions he received, but on his knowledge of area languages and geopolitics and his ability to establish local connections and navigate local conflicts. These qualities later enabled Botta to serve as diplomatic envoy of French government in 1841 to the Ottomans in Mosul, where he engaged in the archaeological excavations for which he is most famous.

Acting on advice of Julius Mohl, secretary of the French Asiatic Society, he began exploration in December of that year on the mound of Koujunjik opposite Mosul.

Botta began to collect antiquities: old pots, vases, bricks with cuneiform inscriptions. Botta worked hard on the decipherment of the cuneiform inscriptions, and published his Memoire sur l'ecriture cuneiforme assyrienne in 1848.
Paul-Émile Botta (6 December 1802 – 29 March 1870)
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